note: a recent conversation with a medical person who read this book caused me to update the description on Amazon.
Updated April 27th, 2015.
There’s always been a small group of international medical aid workers who find their way to Nepal, and never quite find their way back. Matt is one such person, who came to Nepal as a trekker in college. Now he’s back, agfter completing a surgical residency in Boston.
On that fateful first trip he met Sushila. Matt did not know at the time she was the love of his life. Sushila was raised in Vajrayanic Buddhist culture, with customs and beliefs far from any that Matt ever knew. They shared the passion of young people with the world ahead of them. By the time Matt returned, she disappeared, no trace other than a faded photo on a wall. Sushila’s Buddhist faith was challenged when the civil war came to Beni and to her house. Matt throws himself into medical practice in rural Nepal, immersing himself in the reality of medical care in a low income country.
It is these sections that caused the book to develop a cult following among doctors and nurses who get off the beaten path into global medicine. The Sacrament of the Goddess has been described as “required reading for every foreign medical person that wants to volunteer in Nepal” due to it’s unfailing description of Nepali culture.
The back cover of the USA edition was a short synopsis. By the time we printed the Nepal edition, there were some reviews to quote and they were more colorful. In a bookstore, people make decisions to buy based on the first page and back cover, or so they say.
This book is also a rollicking adventure story and tale of love and heroism. A small group of international doctors deliver care at a missionary hospital where there is only one missionary left.
The Sacrament of the Goddess also reveals events of the Nepal civil war in layers, as we meet the medical team of Beni Nepal and see it through their eyes. Superficially, it is a classic story of star-crossed lovers, but the events unfold partly in real time and partly as flashbacks – memories that may or may not have happened, meanings that only reveal themselves through gazing at the stars on the darkest of nights.
At it’s core The Sacrament of the Goddess is about the choices people make in a civil war where the moral virtues of each side is ambiguous. On a daily basis the doctors confront the clash between western-style individualistic culture and eastern-style collectivist culture. As we learn how they cope with difficult events we ponder how people’s actions express their conception of God and the infinite in a culture with plural religions.
And the meaning of love.
You can get this book on Amazon https://goo.gl/PGTW30